Classes target condo owners

Condo owners can learn more about how to set a budget, run elections and other topics in new courses offered by the state ombudsman

Article Courtesy of the Miami Herald

By Amy Sherman

Published January 17, 2006

Who is responsible for replacing condo-unit windows after a hurricane? How do you prevent ballot stuffing at the condo board election? Can I force my neighbor to pick up after his dog?

Condo residents with these and other questions can take classes this year to learn more about condo living and running an association. Classes will be taught at Broward Community College and the office of the state condo ombudsman in Fort Lauderdale.

The continuing education classes at BCC aren't for slackers: students will have reading homework and take a test at the end. No need for test anxiety -- it'll be open book.

Virgil Rizzo, the condo ombudsman, is launching the classes as part of his office's mission to educate unit owners.

South Florida condo residents are drawn to the lifestyle that includes shared amenities and a staff to take care of maintenance. But condo living isn't as simple as it seems, It involves a long list of rights and responsibilities. And condo board members may not have any experience in establishing a budget, selecting a roofing contractor or other tasks.

The first two-hour seminar on condominium business operations, which will be taught by Rizzo's assistant Jan. 24, is already full. But Rizzo's office plans to hold similar free seminars in the future.

For condo owners who want a more in-depth education, Rizzo plans to hold four different multi-session classes at BCC on condo basics, business management, general management and special topics. The cost is $25 to pay for the use of BCC's facilities.

The BCC classes will start in February. But Rizzo wants to hear from interested students first about their preference for days, times and locations.

Call 954-202-3234 or e-mail [email protected] to offer input.

Rizzo hopes the courses will help condo residents advocate for themselves and improve their own associations.

Currently, his office gets about 600 telephone calls, e-mails and letters a week.

''If they've learned something from what we've taught them, they can help the board or get on the board,'' Rizzo said.

Rosalie Labate, vice president of the Hollybrook condo association in Pembroke Pines, said the classes may benefit newcomers to condo living.

''A lot of them have difficulties in what the rights of the individuals are and what the condo's authority is,'' she said.